It’s often noted that the United States is governed by the world’s oldest written constitution that is still in use. This is usually stated as praise, though most other products of the eighteenth century, like horse-borne travel and leech-based medical treatment, have been replaced by improved models.
– Jeffrey Toobin, writing in the New Yorker about whether the current dysfunction of the federal government might be due, at least in part, to the Constitution.
(Additional notable quotes from his interesting article, after the jump.)
Yesterday I predicted that President Obama will nominate Judge Diane Wood (7th Cir.) to the Supreme Court. My colleague Elie is on record as predicting that Obama will nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan.
Both of these predictions still seem viable, in light of how Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) reacted after meeting with Obama yesterday to talk about SCOTUS nominees. From the Salt Lake Tribune:
President Barack Obama invited Sen. Orrin Hatch into the Oval Office for a private discussion Wednesday about his impending Supreme Court pick — and then Hatch immediately drove downtown to the Cato Institute where he ripped the president’s approach to nominating judges….
At a Cato event billed as a speech on health care, Hatch said Obama has clearly looked for qualifications that go beyond a strict adherence to the Constitution.
“Last summer, President Obama talked often about how judges should be guided by their empathy. This year, the buzz phrase seems to be core constitutional values,” Hatch said. “This is the same old thing, just another cloaking device for judges who seek to control the Constitution.”
So what exactly went down at the Obama-Hatch tête-à-tête?
Back on Tuesday, it was widely rumored that an attorney general nomination announcement was imminent — and that the nominee was going to be former Solicitor General Ted Olson (pictured at right, at his wedding last year).
But we had our doubts. We opined that Olson, confirmed as SG by a narrow 51-47 margin, might be a tough sell in a Democratic Senate.
That opinion looks increasingly solid. From today’s Washington Post:
The Senate majority leader said yesterday that Democrats would block former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson from becoming attorney general, kicking off a spirited nomination debate even before the White House has named a candidate.
“Ted Olson will not be confirmed,” Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement. “I intend to do everything I can to prevent him from being confirmed as the next attorney general.”
So it seems that, with respect to Ted Olson, the Dems are throwing down the gauntlet. Why so hostile? Are they upset they didn’t get invited to Olson’s fabulous, star-studded wedding?
More after the jump.
Ted Olson seems like a solid, non-controversial choice. Terwilliger would definitely be the most fun name to have as AG. Senator Hatch is an interesting choice, but I’m not sure he’s interested. We took a class from Thompson in Anti-Terrorism and Criminal Procedure at UGA Law, and we liked him well enough. Clement is a logical choice I suppose as the current acting AG.
Here’s hoping that it is one of these guys, and not one of the crazy names being thrown around on Monday, like Michael Chertoff. Let’s try to go with somebody with a history of, I dunno….competence.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales may be slightly more secure in his position these days than in the recent past, when it was looking like “Gonzales” was Spanish for “canned.” But he’s not out of the woods yet — which is why speculation about possible successors continues.
Ben Wittes, writing for TNR Online, has some excellent insights. His overall take:
[B]etween a sinking administration that still demands loyalty above all else and congressional Democrats keen on using their new oversight powers, finding a candidate who satisfies both sides will be hard. The next attorney general must be someone acceptable enough to Democrats not just to get confirmed but to tamp down the fire Gonzales has witlessly set.
But he must also be enough of a conservative to satisfy the White House. And he needs a reputation for probity and moral seriousness sufficient to speak to the public and to Congress with the respect that Gonzales obviously lacks. It’s a tall order–a pinch so tight that it squeezes out almost all of the names being bandied about in public.
Wittes then marches through various possible nominees. Discussion continues, after the jump.
Here’s our recap of the past week in ATL, completely free of Biglaw or bonus news (which will be summarized in a separate “Week in Review” post).
The theme for this week’s news: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
* Hardworking lawyers are still unhappy with their sex lives.
* Celebrities still get in legal trouble (and so do state court judges).
* Borat-related lawsuits still keep getting filed.
* The Duke lacrosse team rape case is still FUBAR.
* Law school libraries are still foul-smelling at the height of final exams.
* Pro se litigants are STILL AWESOME.
* Senator Orrin Hatch is still on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
* Justice Breyer is still concerned about sectarian violence in the 17th century.
* Eumi Choi is still our idol.
* Working for the government still offers many young lawyers more interesting work, and greater responsibility, than Biglaw life (but without a five-figure bonus).
* Also, public interest work still attracts some of the most promising law school graduates.
Have a good weekend, everyone!
Two pieces of news from the Senate Judiciary Committee:
1. Orrin Is Outie. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is said to be leaving the Judiciary Committee. Senator Hatch served as committee chairman for many years, before he was replaced as chairman by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), due to the Republicans’ system of term limits for committee chairs.
When the Democrats take over the Senate in January, Senator Specter will become the ranking member. Senator Hatch, if he stayed on the Judiciary Committee, would be just another member — and a minority member, at that. So he’s leaving the committee, to devote his time and energy to other policy areas. Update (12/14/06): Actually, this did not come to pass. Senator Hatch ended up staying on Judiciary.
2. Let the investigations begin! The SJC’s Democrats are gearing up to look into allegations in a whistleblower complaint, made by a former attorney in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division. In connection with this matter, certain documents are being distributed to the Democratic members of the committee, via the office of Senator Pat Leahy (who will take over as chairman in January).
That second story is developing. We’ll have more on it later. If you have anything to add, please email us.
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